How to create multiple fat32 partitions
April 19, 2006 9:47 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to create multiple fat32 partitions on an external harddrive?

I've tried using the manage storage on WinXP but that would only allow me to create NTFS partitions. I need to partition a 250 Gig external drive with fat32 so I can use it with both windows xp and mac. Ideally, I'm looking for a simple way of doing this in either XP or OSX without buying any new software.
posted by dial-tone to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
You can do this XP in the following way:
0. Make sure your disk is plugged in :)

1. Open control panel
2. Open Administrative tools
3. Open Computer Management
4. Click on the "storage" subtree, the disk should show up under the "disk management" or "removable Storage" branches depending on your config
5. Click on the disk -- you will see the actual partition table in the lower half of the right pane
6. delete, create etc... however you want -- ie create the partitions.
7. Save and exit this program
8. Go to "my computer" you should see the partitions; right click and format as fat32
posted by gadha at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2006

I haven't done this myself recently, but someone just told me something about this. I think he said that XP won't format FAT32 drives larger than 32 gigs.

I don't have a drive handy to test with, but you could try a 32GB partition. If that formats, good, but obviously you don't want ten drive letters. Try expanding the size until it stops working. If that's big enough, you're gold. If it's not, you might try using a Knoppix CD. Linux will probably format the drive FAT32.

Read the last paragraph before you start.

You may have to type

modprobe usb-storage

at a root-level command prompt for the drive to show up. If it's the only hard drive in the system, it will normally be /dev/sda. Try:

cfdisk /dev/sda

(if there's no cfdisk, then do regular fdisk, which is uglier and hard to figure out.... post back for fdisk instructions if you need them.) Make sure the size looks right. If it does, delete anything on the drive, and then create a logical drive covering the whole disk. That will normally be sda5. Then try:

mkfs.vfat -F 32 /dev/sda5

and see what happens.

If it comes back with 'no such command', do:

apt-get update
apt-get install dosfstools

Then try the mkfs command again. It should say something about making a filesystem, and then come back with a success message. If you get that, you should be good... shut down, reconnect everything, and see if XP will use the drive.

Remember that this process WILL ERASE DRIVES. You can DESTROY ALL YOUR DATA. Make SURE you unplug everything but what you want erased, just so you don't accidentally hose something. That includes USB flash drives, cameras... anything that looks like storage.
posted by Malor at 10:08 AM on April 19, 2006

Oh, you wanted MULTIPLE partitions. Create as many logical drives as you want in the FDISK step, and then loop through for as many partitions as you created.... do mkfs.vfat -F 32 on /dev/sda5, /dev/sda6, /dev/sda7... and so on.

You should be able to use the drive on both XP and Mac with a single partition, btw.
posted by Malor at 10:11 AM on April 19, 2006

Ranish partition manager should be able to do this. It bypasses the WinXP limitations that force you to create larger partitions as NTFS only. I've used it to create >100GB FAT32 partitions.
posted by bitmage at 1:15 PM on April 19, 2006

I used an Ubuntu Live CD to partition my 250 GB USB hard drive as FAT32. Worked like a champ although I had to use the command line tools to accomplish it.
posted by mmascolino at 2:52 PM on April 19, 2006

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